The FHL Ocean Observatory is currently being constructed with an NSF FSML grant.
Ocean change, including ocean acidification (OA), poses an unprecedented threat to oceanic and coastal ecosystems and to the societies that depend on them. The scale and complexity of the OA problem requires new spatially distributed data collection, and an integrated programmatic approach to OA research.
The Salish Sea region, bathed in waters of the Northeast Pacific, is particularly vulnerable to OA events associated with ocean upwelling and is already experiencing pH ranges that other areas will not see for many decades; commercial fisheries and shellfish aquaculture already appear to be at risk. OA is further complicated in estuaries such as the Salish Sea by local processes including respiration, production, anoxia and mixing, resulting in wide pH and pCO2 variation in time and space.
At UW, our long-range plans for ocean change research integrate across five themes. These are:
ocean carbonate system observations, utilizing
new advances in the development of ocean sensors and instruments, incorporating
biological response studies under laboratory and field conditions, simulated using
environmental and ecosystem modeling studies and guiding
integrated assessment of policy and socio-economic responses.
FHL currently has a fully functional NSF-funded (FSML) Ocean Acidification Experimental Laboratory and in-water mesocosm facility. Plans are to create an instrument array at FHL to monitor local changes, and to provide data for ongoing experiments. FHL will engage in knowledge transfer, with data and information flowing to and from policy makers, affected communities, scientists, and the general public.
The shellfish aquaculture community can benefit economically from the new data and tribal governments will accrue benefits that could help sustain traditional food sources. The public will benefit through targeted education activities that improve their understanding of ocean processes and acidification.
UW and FHL plan to train a workforce that is ready to discover and deal with the impacts of OA and to realize adaptive responses that will allow affected industries and communities to thrive in the presence of this threat. Users include those engaged in marine resource-based economies, members of coastal tribes, managers of marine resources, researchers in academic and government laboratories, and both formal and informal educators.
Our FHL education programs reach broadly, from high school teachers and their students to undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Educational activities connect FHL science with knowledge transfer. At the graduate level, FHL will prepare students for careers inside and outside of academia. Under-represented minorities (URM) are fully integrated into FHL activities, with the objective of increasing their representation in oceanography, biology, fisheries and other OA – and ocean-related fields. We will leverage existing programs (UW IGERT in Ocean Change, FHL Blinks and REU site programs, FHL Research Apprenticeships, NSF BEACON at UW) and create new programs to recruit, mentor, and prepare a community of URM students both on and off the university campus. We will engage Native American students in ocean change research and education near their own college campus (NWIC) and with their own instructors by partnering.